As the title suggests, this story is about learning to swim for the first time. Learning to swim is a very important life skill to learn. Swimming is fun and refreshing, but water can be dangerous if you are not careful and don’t know your limits. It’s not really safe to swim by yourself even though you are an accomplished swimmer.
My Mom had a bad experience back in the ’30s at Ellerbe Springs Lake. Seems she and several other kids had floated on an old inner tube out into deep water. Mom was having so much fun that she forgot she had never learned to swim. Somehow her hands slipped off the tube and she panicked — bobbing up and down just a hollering.
So happened her older brother was standing on shore and saw what was going on with his sister. Even though he was wearing an old pair of brogan shoes and gallus overalls plus a hammer strapped to his side, he jumped in to save his sister. My Mom, as some drowning swimmers do, tried drowning both of them by fighting her rescuer. Finally, he managed to grab my Mom by the back of her hair and dragged her to the shore. She survived the ordeal but was afraid of water for the rest of her life.
Until last week, all four of my grandchildren had learned to swim except the youngest. Although she had tried, she didn’t like to put her head under the water. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, my wife enrolled her in a swimming program at Browder Park. With the help of a good instructor and a swimming mask covering her eyes and nose, she started swimming like a duck. She swam the length of the pool several times — even underwater. We were so proud of her.
Back when I was just a lad, I loved water — even though my Mom was a bit too protective. My Dad would say, “Ruth, if you don’t let the boy learn to swim, I’m going to throw him out of the boat.” You see, my Dad had built a 14-foot wooden boat to fish in the river with. He and my uncles would paddle down Cartledge Creek to the river or put the boat in the first cove above Blewett Falls Dam on the Richmond County side.
One Saturday, I got to go fishing with my Dad and my uncle. As evening fell, we started paddling in from the river into the cove. Dad untied the rope from the anchor and tied it around my waist and told me to jump in the water. You see, back then, we didn’t own a life jacket so I just dog paddled around. Dad instructed me to use my feet and arms and to cup my hands. While he held onto the rope, I began to swim on my own all around the boat. I have been swimming since then but at my age I often take in a deep breath and just float.
Now folks, I’m not recommending you throw your children out of a boat to learn to swim, but please encourage them to learn, for someday it might save their lives or the life of someone else.
J.A. Bolton is the author of “Just Passing Time” and co-author of “Just Passing Time Together” and just released his new book, “Southern Fried: Down-Home Stories,” all of which can be purchased on Amazon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.